Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Charles County Is Balking at Parks Tax

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Charles County Is Balking at Parks Tax

Article excerpt

ST. CHARLES COUNTY * A sales tax increase to overhaul the Gateway Arch grounds and fund other parks across the region appears doomed in St. Charles County.

A majority of County Council members said Wednesday it's unlikely they'll put the issue on the April 2 ballot, the date also targeted for public votes in St. Louis and St. Louis County. That means St. Charles County retailers will not be charging additional sales taxes and residents will not get increased park improvements.

Four council members said they had been willing to consider the idea but backed off in part because a regional parks agency overseeing the project refused to pay the county's extra election costs. There are no countywide issues on the ballot, so the sales tax question would require additional polling places.

Two other council members oppose the tax plan altogether. A seventh couldn't be reached for comment but has previously expressed opposition.

"I guess it's a dead issue for now" unless somebody steps forward to foot the estimated $150,000 to $175,000 election bill, said Councilman John White, R-St. Charles County.

Regional backers of the plan said they were disappointed at the St. Charles County situation but are prepared to move forward with just St. Louis and St. Louis County taking part.

"Financially, it would mean about 20 percent less" generated for the project, said Susan Trautman, executive director of Great Rivers Greenway. "St. Charles County is part of the region, and we were really hoping they would want to give their residents an opportunity to at least vote."

White said he has an election ordinance ready to introduce at the council's meeting Monday night if someone would cover the cost.

But the board of Great Rivers Greenway voted Tuesday to reject the request by county officials.

A Greenway attorney said the agency couldn't legally use district funds to put on the election, a point disputed by the county.

The agency already collects sales tax money across the two counties and St. Louis for its regional trail system.

Trautman said her agency's board also believes it's inappropriate to use public park dollars generated from all three jurisdictions to pay for an election in one. …

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